The History of Professional Proofreading

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Proofreading is arguably one of the most important aspects of modern book publishing. As an author, you wouldn’t pitch your manuscript to a literary agent or a publisher or self-publish it without having a professional proofreader check for typos, grammatical and spelling errors, punctuation, missing words, and other mistakes that can distract the reader and devalue your work. 

Errors and typos are natural and even the best authors aren’t immune to them, but letting them slip through into your published manuscript undermines your credibility and calls your professionalism into question. If you have a clean text that needs one final thorough check, head over to our proofreading services for authors and learn more about working with a professional proofreader. 

When did proofreading begin? 

Proofreading became a profession out of sheer necessity. As a writer, you know how easy it is to miss a typo or skim over a simple mistake after reading your own writing too many times. In fact, it’s incredibly difficult to proofread your own work since you’re too familiar with it and know what you wanted to say. 

Now imagine missing a typo in a widely circulated book, like the Bible. True story: In 1631, an edition of the Bible published in London omitted the word “not” from one of the Ten Commandments so the sentence read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” The small but significant error was so scandalous that this edition of the King James Bible is now known as the Wicked Bible or the Sinners’ Bible. This embarrassing mistake could have been avoided if a proofreader had checked the text before sending the copy to the printing press. 

Proofreading actually began earlier. It’s said to have started in the 1440s with the invention of the printing press, which meant that books no longer had to be reproduced by hand and more copies could be made of the same text and sold at more reasonable prices. To make multiple copies, a proof, which was like the final draft of a manuscript, would be put together before sending it to print. It was at that point that someone would check the proof for typos. 

Of course, proofreading as a profession wasn’t as widespread back then as it is now, and writers usually proofed their own work, publicly apologizing if readers found any mistakes in the printed text. This would happen relatively frequently as proofreading your own work is extremely tricky. Also, not all writers have the sharp eye and keen attention to detail needed for effective proofreading. 

The evolution of proofreading

These days, you can find proofreaders all over the internet, the choice including apps, plug-ins for your browser, and other computerized services. However, keep in mind that even the best algorithms can’t compete with a trained professional. Homophones, for example, are easy to miss since they’re not misspelled words—simply misused—and a person is much more likely to catch such a mistake than an AI-powered app. 

Even apps such as Grammarly can’t hold a candle to human proofreaders. Grammarly misses an embarrassingly high number of errors, and sometimes its suggestions are even worse than the original mistake. It may also suggest changing perfectly fine text into one with mistakes or at least awkward sentences. If you want to publish a well proofed and polished manuscript, hiring a human proofreader is the only way to go.

No one wants a mistake, no matter how small, in the published copy of their manuscript. It makes the writing seem sloppy, and the author comes off as disorganized and inattentive, which instantly lowers the perceived quality of the work. This is why we highly recommend hiring a professional proofreader. Just make sure you partner with a proofreading service that will offer quality work to bring your manuscript up to industry standards. To learn more, check out our proofreading services for authors and start working with a professional today.

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